Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Visit to San Francisco

I have spent almost three weeks in San Francisco, staying with the brothers at San Damiano Friary. It has been a wonderful visit. In addition to the daily prayers and the usual sorts of things we do every day in any friary: daily office, Mass, diary meetings, cooking, shopping, cleaning...I spent several happy days weeding and pruning in the back garden, especially cutting back Br. Jude's blackberry bushes ("brambles" as he calls them), which present an ever malignant threat to the rest of the garden. I am from the Pacific Northwest, and the notion of planting blackberries in your garden is just shy of shocking. But these are heavy with berries, and will be ready for harvest in a week or so. Such are the bizarre glories of gardening in California!

I preached for the brothers shortly after I arrived, and made a visit to the Community of St. Francis house here in San Francisco where I celebrated Mass for them. It was a poignant visit; Sr. Cecelia might have known who I was, but she certainly couldn't hear anything I was saying. She rests in bed all of the time now, and the sisters and often the brothers along with other care givers do their best to keep her comfortable. She is a remarkably strong woman; I have so many good memories of her: especially of my time here as a novice. She had just finished as Minister General, I believe. At any rate she was full of good humor and showed me warm affection both in 1992 and now in 2015.

This past week I spent time with our two SSF novices, Juniper and Damien Joseph on the vows. I talked with them, using my book, The Vows Book as the basis for our conversations. They are alert, inquiring men, and we had some very fruitful, engaging times together.

The weather has been generally beautiful, and I have used the opportunity to run, working on speeding up! I've decided that 2016 will be the Year of the Race. Perhaps a marathon, definitely a half marathon. Since September will be my "holiday time" I'm considering a run in Jackson Hole, Wyoming or in Arizona. The run in Arizona has the added attraction of being sponsored by the Hopi People. I would love to run that; conditioning is my only worry.

After searching around on-line for articles about running a marathon, I've found lots of advice. I am trying to do the work that seems most common-sensical. That includes gradually increasing my distances, taking rest days, and doing other exercises to strengthen my core. I can do 10 push ups and about 20 stomach "crunches." I think my concern about conditioning is legitimate!! On the other hand I can run about 13 miles fairly easily. One trainer writing in a magazine article posted on the internet suggested jumping rope. I have lots of happy memories jumping rope as a school child, so I bought one. But I have found I feel very self conscious jumping rope on the city side walks of San Francisco, and keep forgetting to take it to a park...I'm trying to push my boundaries at the same time practice a little loving kindness for myself, which I still see as an awkward, uncoordinated self!

I find encouragement from Bruce Tift, a psychotherapist and teacher at Naropa University who has written: The basis of compassion with ourselves and others is to stay embodied and present with the difficulty of being human. That's how we actually keep our hearts open, not trying to transcend our difficult feelings.

Running a race is not just about exercise. It is a very mental challenge, one of the biggest mental challenges is stilling the voice that says "You are a fool! Forget about it. And besides you are too old." My mental riposte is that is pure nonsense.

So why do I keep thinking about it?

Monday I leave San Francisco and go to Seattle for Christmas with my family--the first time since 1988. Every Christmas since has been with the brothers. But since this is the first Christmas after my father's death, the brothers thought it would be a good idea for me to be with my Mother; so do I!

Below is a picture of the burly brothers of San Damiano.

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